McDonald’s Announces Global Commitment to Support Families With Increased Focus on Happy Meals

OAK BROOK, Ill., Feb. 15, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) announced an expanded commitment to families, supporting the company’s long-term global growth plan by leveraging its reach to impact children’s meals, access to reading, and keeping families together through Ronald McDonald House Charities.  By 2022, McDonald’s will make improvements to the Happy Meal menu across 120 markets to offer more balanced meals, simplify ingredients, continue to be transparent with Happy Meal nutrition information, reinforce responsible marketing to children, and leverage innovative marketing to help impact the purchase of foods and beverages that contain recommended food groups in Happy Meals.  

“We recognise the opportunity that we have to support families as one of the most visited restaurants in the world, and remain committed to elevating our food, celebrating the joy of reading, and helping those in need through Ronald McDonald House Charities,” said Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s President and CEO.  “Given our scale and reach, we hope these actions will bring more choices to consumers and uniquely benefit millions of families, which are important steps as we build a better McDonald’s.”

In 2013, McDonald’s began working with the not-for-profit Alliance for Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation) to develop a comprehensive plan for 20 major markets* to increase customers’ access to fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy and water; and many of those markets are ahead of schedule in their progress on those prior commitments. 

Today, the company is furthering its efforts with Healthier Generation to set five new Global Happy Meal Goals through 2022.

1. Offer Balanced Meals

Using rigorous nutrition criteria grounded in science and nutrition policy, by the end of 2022, at least 50 percent or more of the Happy Meals listed on menus (restaurant menu boards, primary ordering screen of kiosks and owned mobile ordering applications) in each market will meet McDonald’s new Global Happy Meal Nutrition Criteria of less than or equal to 600 calories; 10 percent of calories from saturated fat; 650mg sodium; and 10 percent of calories from added sugar. 

Currently, 28 percent of Happy Meal combinations offered on menu boards in 20 major markets meet these new nutrition criteria. To reach the goal of 50 percent or more, markets will add new menu offerings, reformulate or remove menu offerings from the Happy Meal section of the menu board. For example, last month McDonald’s Italy introduced a new Happy Meal entrée called the “Junior Chicken,” a lean protein sandwich (grilled chicken).  McDonald’s Australia is currently exploring new vegetable and lean protein options and McDonald’s France is looking at new vegetable offerings.

2. Simplify Ingredients

As consumers’ tastes and preferences continue to evolve, markets will prioritize Happy Meals and simplify ingredients by removing artificial flavors, added colors from artificial sources, and reducing artificial preservatives where feasible.  In 2016, McDonald’s USA removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets, which also have no artificial flavors and colors, and the Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s France and Canada have no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

3. Be Transparent with Happy Meal Nutrition Information

The company has made a continuous effort to meet consumers’ desire for easy access to nutrition information for menu items it serves with a goal of ensuring that nutrition information for Happy Meals is available and accessible through all McDonald’s owned websites and mobile apps used for ordering where they exist.

4. Market Responsibly

Under the new goals, all Happy Meal bundles advertised to children will meet McDonald’s new global nutrition criteria, and will continue to meet any existing local/regional advertising pledges with respect to marketing to children. 

5. Leverage innovative marketing to help increase purchase of foods and beverages that contain recommended food groups in Happy Meals

McDonald’s recognizes the opportunity it has to make a positive impact using its size and scale to leverage innovative marketing, including packaging and promotions and use of new technologies, such as kiosks and mobile apps, to help serve more fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean protein and water in Happy Meals. This goal takes these actions one step further to include a measurement component and externally sharing best practices and results in a transparent manner. 

McDonald’s USA Happy Meal Changes

Customers in the U.S. will see accelerated changes to the Happy Meal menu this year.  In June 2018, 100 percent of the meal combinations offered on Happy Meal menu boards in the U.S. will be 600 calories or fewer, and 100 percent of those meal combinations will be compliant with the new nutrition criteria for added sugar, saturated fat, and 78 percent compliant with the new sodium criteria.

  • Listing only the following entrée choices: Hamburger, 4-piece and 6-piece Chicken McNuggets. The Cheeseburger will only be available at a customer’s request. 
  • Replacing the small French fries with kids-sized fries in the 6-piece Chicken McNugget meal, which decreases the calories and sodium in the fries serving by half.
  • Reformulating chocolate milk to reduce the amount of added sugar. During this period, chocolate milk will no longer be listed on the Happy Meal menu, but will be available at a customer’s request.
  • Later this year, bottled water will be added as a featured beverage choice on Happy Meal menu boards.
  • In December 2017, McDonald’s USA completed the transition to Honest Kids Appley Ever After organic juice drink, which has 45 less calories and half the total sugar than the prior 100 percent apple juice served in the U.S.  

With these planned menu updates, there will be average reductions of 20 percent in calories, 50 percent in added sugars,13 percent in saturated fat and/or 17 percent in sodium, depending on the customer’s specific meal selection. These reductions reflect the average nutrition data of U.S. Happy Meal offerings on the menu last year compared to those planned for later this year.  Already, several of the Happy Meal combinations available on U.S. menu boards today meet the new nutrition criteria and will not be changing.

McDonald’s USA last announced changes of this magnitude in 2013 as part of its commitment with Healthier Generation, when removing soda from the Happy Meal section of its menu boards, which has resulted in a 14 percentage point increase in the number of Happy Meals ordered that include water, milk or juice as their beverage choice.  In December 2013, customers chose water, milk or juice as their beverage choice in 38 percent of Happy Meals and that number increased to 52 percent in December 2017. During that same period, the number of Happy Meals that included soda and other beverages decreased from 62 percent to 48 percent. For the first time, more than half of Happy Meals ordered in the U.S. have included water, milk or juice as their beverage of choice. 

“From day one, Healthier Generation knew our work with McDonald’s could influence broad scale improvements to meal options for kids everywhere,” said Dr. Howell Wechsler, Chief Executive Officer of Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “Today’s announcement represents meaningful progress to impact kids’ calories, saturated fat, sodium and added sugar in Happy Meal bundles as offered on menu boards – and to promote more water. This sets a high bar, and we hope other industry leaders will follow suit.”

 “As a nutritionist and a mom, this is a pivotal moment as we unveil new, ambitious goals in collaboration with Healthier Generation that we hope will positively impact families around the world,”  said Julia Braun, MPH, Registered Dietitian and Head of Global Nutrition at McDonald’s. “Our efforts have led to big changes and real progress and as part of our continued food journey, we’re committed to making it easier for families to choose balanced options that will make measurable differences.” 

These commitments apply to all markets globally with measurement and reporting of progress among 20 major markets, representing nearly 85 percent of the company’s global sales. The company will work with Healthier Generation and an independent, third-party to measure and publicly report progress every two years. 

“Happy Meal Readers” Book Program

The company is also using its scale for good to inspire a passion for reading and will continue to spread the joy of reading to more families.  Since 2001, the company and its franchisees have distributed more than 370 million books in Happy Meals. “Happy Meal Readers” continues to expand, and by 2019 children in more than 100 markets will be able to choose a book or toy year-round in their Happy Meals. 

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC)

When it comes to supporting families, the company has played an important role for more than 40 years in keeping families near the care they need when their children are sick. McDonald’s was a founding mission partner of the Charity and remains committed to leveraging the size and scale of McDonald’s restaurants to promote and raise money to support the growth of the Charity.  RMHC keeps families together, close to the care they need through more than 364 Ronald McDonald Houses, 227 Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, and 49 Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles in 64 countries and regions around the world.  Last year alone, RMHC provided care and resources to more than five and a half million children and families.  Last year, McDonald’s restaurants supported the work of RMHC by providing approximately 2.4 million overnight stays in neighborhoods and in communities around the world.

About McDonald’s

McDonald’s is the world’s leading global foodservice retailer with over 37,000 locations in over 100 countries. Approximately 90% of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent local business men and women.

About Healthier Generation

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits by ensuring the environments that surround them provide and promote good health. More than 25 million children have been helped by Healthier Generation’s work with schools, communities and businesses across the country. Make a difference at HealthierGeneration.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter.

*20 major markets: U.S., Canada, Brazil, Argentina, U.K., France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Taiwan and Australia. 

   
MEDIA CONTACTS:  
Becca Hary
McDonald’s
becca.hary@us.mcd.com
Kate Siskel
Alliance for a Healthier Generation
kate.siskel@healthiergeneration.org

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